Ronville Caves

1st April 1917. Battalion was relieved in the line by 8th KRRC and moved to the Caves. HQ in BLUFF, coys in CHRISTCHURCH. Lieut V. Taylor RAMC on rejoining from leave returned to a Field Ambulance and was replaced by Capt T.A. Watson RAMC.

2nd April 1917. Lieut F.J. St. Aubyn rejoined from F.A. after an absence of more than two months.

3rd April 1917. Lieut W.W. Palmer rejoined from wounds. Batt HQ moved into Christchurch Cave.

Dainville
5th April 1917. The battalion moved to DAINVILLE.

7th April 1917. Capt E. Fairlie appointed temp 2nd in command of the 9th Batt.
During the first part of the above period the battalion found some working parties employed on digging assembly trenches.

5th April 1917. The Bombardment of the German lines began. There was an enormous concentration of Artillery all round ARRAS from 15” downwards and this bombardment went on unceasingly day and night.

8th April 1917. Easter Sunday. The bombardment of the German lines continued with increased violence. In the afternoon some large ammunition dumps in ACHICOURT were blown up. At 8pm the battalion started to move up by platoons, through ACHICOURT to go into the caves at RONVILLE where the whole brigade were to spend the night April 8th/9th. The move to the caves was accomplished without casualties though ACHICOURT had to be avoided owing to the constant explosions of shells from the dumps on fire. During the night all stores were issued & in the caves a wet but quite night was spent. No sound of the concentrated bombardment overhead penetrated down to the depths below.

9th April 1917. 7.30am. The 7th K.R.R. & 7th R.B. started out from the caves, each issuing by two exits & we made our way to the old British front line which we occupied as the 41st Brigade was in Reserve while the 42nd & 43rd Brigades were taking part in the attack.

There was a strong wind blowing with driving showers of rain – the trenches were occupied without trouble, though shortly afterwards we had three casualties in D Coy from an unlucky shell. As the course of the battle progressed favourably the Brigade were not required during the day. The Cavalry passed through in the afternoon – but as the wire behind the further objective was uncut, their service could not be utilized. A very cold night was spent in the trenches with constant snow showers & by morning there was more than an inch of snow lying upon the ground.

10th April 1917. All through the 10th there were snow showers with occasional bright intervals. The order came that the Brigade was to move at 11am & the 7th K.R.R. were to move up to the BLUE LINE – the old German trenches in the COJEUL Switch.

11a.m. This was accomplished without casualties & the amazing results to of our Shell fire on the German lines became apparent.

The Bn was not left long here & after an hour’s rest, orders were received to move on & relieve the KOYLI who were supposed to be in the BROWN LINE in front of WANCOURT in N22a.

Moving forward in Artillery formation up the Valley towards WANCOURT the Bn suddenly came under machine gun & rifle fire from the right flank from the direction of HILL90 (N22C). Finding some newly discovered trenches in N15d, we occupied there until the ground had been reconnoitred in front. No signs of the KOYLI were to be found, but 150 yards in front, Germans were found holding the sunken road & many more appeared all along the crest of Hill 90.

Under cover of a snowstorm A & D Companies under the command of Capt. G.H. WILLIAMSON MC pushed forward & reached the BROWN LINE in N16d. It was a very fine feat & would have been impossible except for the snowstorm which prevented much of the enfilade MG fire. They had however many casualties. 2nd Lt F.R. WILLIAMS who was commanding D Coy was killed. Lieut F.J. St AUBYN & 2nd Lt P.F. WALFORD were also killed whilst Lts C. PULLINGER, S. WIGGINS, G.D. FERARD, J.G. JOHNSON & the younger WILLIAMSON were wounded & some 60 O.R’s were killed & wounded. About 20 Germans were captured & sent back, while a good many were killed.

The KOYLI’s finding opposition in front had apparently moved up to the N. into another divisional front & were not where they were meant to be.

The position the in the evening of April 10th was that A & D Coys were holding part of the BROWN LINE in N16d, while the other 2 Coys were in support of N15d. We had captured a Machine Gun & a Trench Mortar here close to Bn H.Q. The Germans were within 150 yds of the two support Coys & there was no one on our right flank for about 1300 yds. This being the case I asked for support on my right & the Brigadier sent up the 8th R.B. who prolonged my right flank towards the 56th Divn.

Battalion Headquarters was established in an old German Bomb Store full of bombs & trench mortar stores of all kinds, just in front of the support coys.

11th April 1917.
1a.m. The night passed quite quietly. About 1 a.m. the Brigadier came up & talked over the situation. He agreed that it was quite impossible to push on until Hill 90 had been taken by the 56th Divn & that all we could do was to remain on the defensive. Any advance up the valley was sheer madness until the Machine Guns on HILL 90 which enfiladed the whole valley had been put out of action.
4.30a.m. The attached orders arrived and in spite of all protests we were ordered to carry them out. There was no time to copy them out & the originals had to be sent up to the forward Coys. B & C Companies supported by the 8th R.B. were to advance up the valley & to try & push on to WANCOURT. The 56th Division never left their trenches or made any attempt to take HILL 90.

B Coy under WHITLEY made a most gallant attempt to push forward but from the start it was an impossible task & the Staff who had ordered the attack, if they had ever come near enough to have looked at the ground would have realized it too & would never have ordered the attack. WHITLEY was alas killed, gallant soldier that he was, & his body was found nearest to the German wire which was totally uncut. The artillery preparation which had been ordered in a great hurry never materialised – in fact the orders in many cases never arrived in time & the whole show was a complete failure from want of preparation & organisation on the part of the staff. The rest of the day was spent in our original positions & towards evening heavy snowstorms set in & before long there were two inches of snow on the ground. It was impossible to get in the wounded until after dark so that their sufferings were very much aggravated by the cold. That night we had were relieved by the 8th K.R.R. & moved back to the old COJEUL SWITCH line, where a bitterly cold night was spent in the open, without any dugouts & with fresh snow showers all night.

12th April 1917. The 12th was spent in these trenches & the 8th K.R.R. & 8th R.B. occupied WANCOURT without a casualty as HILL 90 had been evacuated during the night. The whole Division was relieved by the 50th Divn & the Battn marched back to ARRAS. It was an awful march in the dark – the mud was very deep & men had to be dug out of it at times by 2a.m. we reached the town & went into billets.

Our causalities during these four days were:-

Officers:-

CAPTAIN C. WHITLEY M.C.

KILLED

CAPTAIN G.H. WILLIAMSON

DIED OF WOUNDS

LIEUT F.J. ST AUBYN

- “ -

2ND LIEUT K.H.WILLIAMSON

- “ -

2ND LIEUT F.R. WILLIAMS

- “ -

LIEUT C.C. OMMANNEY

WOUNDED

P.F.WALFORD

- “ -

LIEUT J.G. JOHNSTON, SCOTTISH RIFLES

- “ -

G.D. FERARD

WOUNDED

2ND LIEUT C.E. PULLINGER

- “ -

S. WIGGINS

- “ -

2ND LIEUT W.O. DRING

- “ -

Other Ranks:-

KILLED

DIED OF WOUNDS

WOUNDED

MISSING

Sergeants

-

1

9

-

L/Sgts & Cpls

3

-

6

-

Riflemen

17

14

125

9

Totals

20

15

140

9

This total includes 5 O.R’s wounded and to duty.